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kid lit

Books We Love: Biographies by Tracy Nelson Maurer

#kidlitexchange, Books We Love

As an elementary school teacher, I love picture book biographies. At their best, they include compelling narratives, well-crafted language, and fantastic examples of character traits. John Deere, That’s Who! and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, both by Tracy Nelson Maurer, include all of these attributes and more.

John Deere, That’s Who!, published March 2017, explores the story behind a household name. Maurer shows her ability to build historical context as she masterfully explains what life was like in the 1830s. Throughout the book, Maurer makes use of rhetorical questions and repetition to keep readers engaged. By the book’s end, readers are left with an understanding of how hardship led to innovation.

Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, published April 2017, is a standard biography with a creative twist: “Noah” himself serves as editor. Fake hand-written sticky notes throughout the text show what Noah may have said to expand on or correct Maurer’s text. This move makes the book even more entertaining, but it also pushes the book into the historical fiction category, as Mary Ann Cappiello of The Classroom Bookshelf explains. This book can inspire students to explore our linguistic history and will leave them wanting to learn even more about the man behind our dictionary.

In both of her new picture books, Maurer has earned a place on kids’ bookshelves.


Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of these books – all opinions are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Smart Cookie

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

It’s not often that a book about loss leaves your heart feeling full. Somehow, Smart Cookie manages to do just that. Frankie Greene lives with her dad and grandmother at the Greene Family B&B in a small Vermont town. She has a great friend named Elliot, some great cookie recipes, a pet hedgehog, and a beagle named Lucy. However, things don’t seem to be quite right. Business is slowing down at the bed and breakfast, Frankie’s former best friend is causing trouble for her, and Frankie doesn’t think she’ll have a “full” family in time for the Winter Family Festival Parade. Frankie’s determined to find a new mom, save the B&B, and “complete” her family – but she doesn’t have much time!

Elly Swartz’ storytelling makes Smart Cookie a standout for middle grade readers. Her incredible ability to describe people and places turn the book into a model for imagery. Readers will fall in love with Frankie, her family, and the cast of characters in Dennisville, Vermont. Readers will feel Frankie’s losses and joys, her victories and her defeats. Swartz brings readers along for the ride in a remarkable way.

In addition to being a powerful story, Smart Cookie explores some powerful questions about love and loss. Readers will question what it means to be a family, and they’ll be reminded how love can show up when you are least expecting it.


Smart Cookie will be released on January 30th, 2018 by Scholastic Press.

Huge thanks to Elly Swartz and Scholastic Press for sharing a copy of Smart Cookie with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!